I was and still am very intrigued by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s Detropia, which happens to be one of my favorite films screened at Rooftop Films this summer. Detropia, a documentary about Detroit and its falling employment rate and growing urban decay, is an everlastingly haunting portrait of the American problem. Ewing and Grady exploited a city that once was the frontrunner of manufacturing and now is a symbol of America’s instability.
A criticism of Detropia is that the film has an unclear solution and hits too close to home. However, because the film leaves the audience without answers to Detroit and America’s predicaments, Detropia is that much more powerful as it will leave you restless. Ewing and Grady provide the appropriate amount of statistics about the state of Detroit, as these facts do not overpower the people of Detroit’s stories. These characters in the documentary successfully portray the fighting spirit and determination of the city’s residents as they are facing uncertain futures and economical distress. Another aspect of Detropia that differentiates the film from most documentaries is the absence of an overarching narrative or connection between each character’s stories. However, because of this tactic, Ewing and Grady allow the audience to reflect upon the meaning behind what is actually shown to us.
Detropia is a powerful depiction of a torn nation. Though haunting, Ewing and Grady flawlessly execute the pride of Detroit’s residents as they are continuously fighting to keep their city alive. “If we can remember where we came from, that will put us in a place to compete. The solution is to think about our past and history, and that what we did back then to inspire the rest of the world, we can do again,” states Crystal Starr, who is featured in the documentary.
If you missed Rooftop Film’s screening of the film, Detropia is out at IFC Center September 7th!